Two reasons the Philippine National Election may go south
Fine print: The audience for this piece is foreigners. However, if you are a Filipino citizen, you are free to read as long as you accept full responsibility for any ideas that arise from within your own cranium. In other words, don’t blame me if you think thoughts that affect your decision-making with regard to the forthcoming election.
We are considering why it is that a nation on the rise, perhaps one of the most exciting and promising nations on the planet, is criticized so abundantly from within, and why voters for the forthcoming Philippine national election may put into office a crook or a dirt-mouthed womanizer or a shallow opportunist rather than a candidate who would assure a continuation of the nation’s rise.
In the first article, we looked at the dominance of two “me classes”, that is, people who are interested in their own well-being ahead of that of the nation: the working poor who use the elections to vent for all the frustrations they must deal with, and the entitled who use the elections to continue to be entitled.
In this one we will look at two other factors that are pushing the voting public to irrational decision-making, where irrational is voting for candidates without the nation’s well-being first and foremost in mind:
- The youthful population and its emotional, uninformed, reactive ways
- A political system that puts into office people who do not receive a majority of votes
Let me speak in generalities which can be wrong for a lot of individuals but correct as to tendencies. If you believe my assessments are incorrect or need to be shaded differently, you can explain this in the discussion section that follows the article.
The Philippines is young. Of 56.4 million registered voters, 37%, or about 20 million, are between the ages of 18 and 35 [“Comelec: 54.6M voters sign up for 2016 polls“; CNN Philippines].
Most of these voters have no meaningful knowledge of or connection to the Spanish, American or Japanese occupations, or even the Marcos dictatorship which ended in 1986. They are likely not even aware the details of the more recent plunderings by Presidents Estrada and Arroyo (1998 to 2010).
Furthermore, these voters, like those engaged in social media around the world, are moving fast and shallow. There is no timeline front or back beyond what is happening on their cell phones and social media today. They come to conclusions quickly and defend their choices with declarative statements, insults and arguments that often make no sense whatsoever. They reject knowledge as an affront to their self-ordained wisdom [“The confidence of the dumb“; Society of Honor]. Oh, yes, there are many, many exceptions. But the mass emphasis is predominantly on “social” engagement, or “fun”, and not “knowledge” or “enlightenment”.Without question, young people do get the headlined news reports. They do share scandals and highlights and trendy topics. They get videos and photos. But they often do not get the whole context or the technical details behind the headlines.
Specific to the Philippines, the high-speed youth . . . we are talking about voters here . . . ARE aware of the poverty, inefficiency and congestion that surround them. And they easily conclude that this must be the fault of the current government. So they want “change”. They don’t want continuity and stability. They have no idea about the work actually being done, they only see what they face. They don’t anticipate a better future, they only see their troubled now. They can’t discern an irrational promise by a candidate from what can actually be done. They go with the promise, with their heart. They generally tend toward emotional findings rather than rational analytics.
It’s amazing how consistent thinking (or feeling) is when we consider the composition of the Philippines. The Philippines remains tribal or dynastic in a congealed society that is complex and conflicted. Over 100 languages, 7,000 islands, several important religions, old, young, rich, poor, educated and not. Conservative but progressive, shy but outspoken, poor but happy, educated but not critical thinkers. The Philippines is not your land. It is the Philippines. But some things ARE consistent. Emotional and simplistic readouts of complex situations are the norm. Simple conclusions are big. Hard-headed insistence that “I am right” is big. Lotto is big. Entertainment stars are big.
Stars represent people’s dreams for glorious self-fulfillment unattainable in the drudge of everyday existence. It is an aspect of this fast-paced, beat-down, eternally happy . . . and often crabby . . . society. Stars shine brightly. Data and facts . . . not so much. Movie stars, boxers, beauty contestants . . . they are popular. They get elected to office. They are largely incompetent in office.
Time does not beat the same in the Philippines as elsewhere. It beats slowly and it is seldom calculated into the future. History may exist if it helps an argument, but most people are just dealing with things here and now. They react to situations, and – in doing so – are actually more patient and laid back and resolute and inventive than most. They’ve had a lot of experience just “dealing with it”. Take driving, for instance, where highway lines and lanes are meaningless and people just make their way through the haphazard and congested morass that appears up front. They go with the flow, and do it better than most. To the outsider, it is horrifying, disorganized chaos. To the Filipino, it is a dance, a natural give and take among various flows and forces.
Filipinos also “deal with it” at government offices, transportation stations and businesses as they are shoveled into long lines and required to do relentlessly ridiculous things to get anywhere or accomplish anything important. Because there is no solution open to them, they are relegated to criticism. Complaining abounds. Alongside complaint is excuse-making and blaming. There have to be culprits in a reactive society where things aren’t going well, and the culprit can never be “me”.
“I’m the victim here.”
With this victimhood comes a certain neediness, a demand to be heard and tended to. Change is more important than continuity. And it means fixing “the other guy”, not me.
The youth is not fighting for a particular cause, like racial freedom or women’s rights. There is no rallying cry. There is just a need to vent. To BE somebody.
The Philippines does not require a majority vote to select a president. In the 2016 election, it is very much possible that the winning candidate will have less than 30% of all votes. In this situation, in a battle of extremists, an extremist is assured of winning. That extremist cannot secure a mandate of support from the nation. Imagine that, in very simple terms, these are the extreme pesidential candidates we are talking about!
- A crook and liar
- A dirt-mouthed, murderous thug
- A conniving disloyal opportunist
- An inept goody two-shoes
- A crazy sick lady
These are not MY assessments, mind you. It is what the disenfranchised, the losers, will think of a candidate put into office with no real national mandate to serve. It is what 70% of the population will think of the winner!!!
To 70% of all Filipinos, their President will not be worth respecting.
President Aquino won with 43% of the votes. It was characterized as a dominant, landslide win, with the nation coming together to put him in office.
A full 57% of the voting population did not want him as president! And the level of complaint during his term, the difficulty of getting things done, reflected that considerable headwind. And negativity. And build-up of disenchantment and anger.
One thing that we can be assured of in 2016: the Philippines, as a nation, will be very unhappy with the president who is elected.
That is the system.
And it promotes instability, and a negative view of the nation, from within.